Thais warming up to e-payment systems after PromptPay launch

Originally published on Channel NewsAsia on November 20, 2018

Early this year, the Thai government launched its national e-payment system ‘PromptPay’, the first step towards a cashless society. Here's my recap for Channel NewsAsi.


The hassles of modern banking are familiar to many: keeping track of bank account numbers and transfer fees, just to name two of them.
But early this year, a new electronic transactions system for Thailand kicked in, the first step towards a cashless society.
“In January this year, the Thai government launched its national e-payment system ‘PromptPay’ to make money transfers much easier. So how does it work? Essentially, people can send money between bank accounts by using only their phone or national ID numbers instead of a bank account number. This can be done via online banking, a smartphone app and also on the ATM machine.
Banks are aggressively promoting to get customers to sign up for the service, for example, they're waiving fees for inter-bank transfers of up to 5,000 Baht or US $150; or touting that the government can send you tax refunds, pensions or other benefits right away instead of waiting for a cheque in the mailbox.”

These incentives seem to have worked.
By August, individuals and businesses registered 32 million accounts,
and the e-payment system has seen transfers to the tune of more than 30 billion US dollars.
But some users feel the e-payment system should have more options, while others had concerns about safety and privacy.
“I don’t feel quite comfortable giving my ID or phone number to strangers. I wish there’d be a different reference number, that’d be more safer for me.”
“I got a few deals here and there and I’m concerned whether or that there’ll be additional taxes coming along when I sign up for it. I heard that from a friend.”
“They should expand it to more services, for example paying for credit card or other bills, so it can complete the payment cycle. That should be able to be integrated.”
More e-payment options are in the pipeline for PromptPay, and the recently announced link-up with its Singapore counterpart PayNow, carries definite potential, even though not right away.
TANAWAT RUENBANTERNG; Analyst, Maybank Kim Eng Research:
“Because both systems between Thailand’s PromptPay and PayNow from Singapore were built separately. So it needs some time to connect those two systems together and also to educate people to use this kind of service too. It’ll not be easy, it will take some time but sooner or later not only Thailand and ASEAN people, the whole world is moving to that direction.”
While it will might take some time until you can pay for your street food snacks with your phone, more Thais are already seeing the convenient benefits of e-payment systems, even though this is just the beginning.
Saksith Saiyasombut, Channel NewsAsia, Bangkok